The Beginning of Wisdom


An old proverb posits that “The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their proper name.” In my previous posting I brought up the need to identify the meaning of the acronyms when you cite them. Our trade has many names for the same “thing,” and where you first learned something may affect what you call it.

AGMA has a nomenclature committee which develops definitions, symbols, and terms for use in the standards. They also coordinate with ISO to insure that our standards can be understood around the world. It is a testimony to the fine work these people do that we have a thriving international discussion of gear technology without more disagreement over what certain symbols “mean.”

It hasn’t always been this way. I have a 1972 copy of H.E. Merritt’s Gear Engineering that is tricky to use because of the different Greek letters used for key angles. I have to constantly convert formulas and keep a “cheat sheet” in the book to remind me.

I mention this topic in conjunction with earlier exhortations on teaching and mentoring. Make sure your pupils learn the common understanding of gear terms and can recognize non-standard usage when they see it. No matter what your “local dialect” is, they need to be able to converse with people outside your firm without having a translator present.

When AGMA first introduced software to rate gears according to ISO 6336, they held training sessions around the country. I was able to attend the class in Chicago and was embarrassed for some of my classmates. They knew “gears” in their local dialect but were unable to accurately fill in the input forms because of nomenclature differences.

This isn’t a new situation and it isn’t easy to resolve. AGMA and ISO are doing their part to make the standards consistent. No one is going to go back and revise all those cherished reference books. You can do your part by making sure our “newbies” learn to call things by their proper name.

About Charles D. Schultz 678 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.


  1. Nearly 20 years ago when we first got Internet access at the gear company where I worked, someone did a search for AGMA. The result was the American Gospel Music Association. Our AGMA did show up, but, it was a long way down the list.

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